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October 6, 2023

Why the 22nd Century?

S. M. Gollmer

How far should we cast our vision into the future?  Should we care about tomorrow, next week, or next year?  We certainly don’t want to be short sighted, and planning has its benefits.  For me I really don’t expect to see the next century unless medical technology makes it possible to reach an age of 140. However, failing to plan for the next century sells myself short.

As an educator, I have a duty to the next generation.  My college students are around 20 years old and by the time they reach 2101, they will be in their upper 90s.  It seems my distant vision may be a bit too far.  However, the Apostle Paul, when writing to Timothy, charged him as follows: “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (II Timothy 2:2).  This charge involves not just a teacher and student relationship, but two more generations of educators.  Paul, teaching Timothy, is the first generation.  Timothy is to entrust this to faith men, a second generation.  A third generation is gained when these faithful men also teach others.  As parents and teachers, my students will be training the next generation well into the year 2060.  In turn, that generation will teach the third generation into the 22nd century.

Over the years there have been a number of influential teachers in my life.  Surprisingly, one of them was a substitute teacher, Mrs. Evans.  I only benefited from her teaching several times through grade school and middle school, but I have fond memories of her mental math exercises between lessons.  Although she controlled the classroom with a firm hand, it was clear she loved her students.

For most of her career, Mrs. Evans was the sole teacher at Sweet Home School, a one-room schoolhouse in northwestern Illinois.  From the 1920’s to 40’s she taught my aunt, uncle and father through the 8th grade.  Although the one-room schoolhouse eventually closed, she continued to teach in the Warren school district.  My brother-in-law had her as his 1st grade teacher and she was still substituting into the early 1970’s.

Her influence on me directly through substitute teaching and indirectly through my family cannot be measured this side of heaven.  Although having no children of her own, she saw her students as her children.  Her teaching career may have only spanned a half century, but her influence lives on through my attitude towards teaching and students.  I am preparing for the 22nd century because my influence extends further than I can imagine.  May I have the privilege to impact a future Mrs. Evans, who will teach the generation that influences the next century.

(Image from Rural School Houses of Jo Daviess County – Illinois History Fair 2015)

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